LINCOLN – A pair of bills introduced by State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon this legislative session aim to give quixotic landowners a bit of security when it comes to neighboring wind farm developments.
LB 155, which Brewer introduced on Jan. 11, would prevent private persons from using the eminent domain power of government against their neighbors so they can engage in a private activity.
Brewer’s legislative aide Tony Baker said Monday that the bill would come in handy in a situation where a neighbor invites a private developer to build a wind farm on their property. In that circumstance, if you refused to grant an easement across your land for lines to connect that development to the power grid, your neighbor could go to the public power district and have them use eminent domain to condemn the land needed to build the power lines.
“Eminent domain is supposed to be used for a government purpose, not a private purpose,” Baker said. “Wind farms are private. And that’s wrong. You shouldn’t be able to use the power of government against your neighbor.”
LB 155 was referred to the Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 15 and is not yet scheduled for a hearing.
Brewer’s other bill, LB 373, creates a law that requires counties to have zoning if the county wishes to host wind energy facilities.
The zoning must address three subjects (set-backs, noise, decommissioning) but leaves the establishment of particular values for these subjects up to the county. The bill establishes a civil cause of action for citizens who feel a wind energy facility has diminished their property value. The bill creates a two-year interim period allowing wind energy to continue to be constructed in a county while the county creates a wind zoning ordinance. However, until they have a zoning ordinance in place, turbines cannot be constructed within three miles of someone’s house.
“That’s a long ways, and in most counties, if they wrote a zoning ordinance they’d have some shorter distance than that,” Baker said. “The reason it’s wrote that way is to incentivize counties getting a zoning ordinance done.”
Baker said that requiring counties to come up with zoning ordinances that address wind allows for everyone in the county the opportunity to participate in the process.
“There will be public hearings, public meetings where people get to show up and talk, to provide the committee with artifacts, evidence and information,” Baker said. “They get to participate in a public process, that way everyone’s voice is heard.”
And right now, Baker said the major problem is that non-participating land owners and neighbors don’t get a voice.
“Tom’s biggest beef with wind right now is what it’s doing to the fabric of the community,” Bake said. “Friends, neighbors and family members are fighting each other and it’s ugly.”
But with LB 373, Baker said that wind facilities stay a “local control” issue that counties decide through the public process that everyone is allowed to participate in.
LB 373 was referred to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and has a hearing scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31.
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